A spokesman for Nigeria’s military says operations to root out Boko Haram militants will continue in the Sambisa Forest in the northeastern part of Nigeria after Tuesday's rescue of almost 300 kidnapped women and girls.
Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman told VOA Wednesday that the army will continue to root out terrorist camps.
“Remember the Sambisa forest is [a] vast area and there are a lot of terrorist camps," he said. "So far we have been able to dislodge four out of several others, and they are still on it."
In the meantime, the rescued girls and women are being processed, Usman says.
“The processing is ongoing, first and foremost to make sure that they are psychologically stabilized, because they are traumatized after they have been abducted by the terrorists,” he said.
Usman says a preliminary investigation shows that none of the Chibok girls are among the group rescued on Tuesday from the Sambisa Forest. The Chibok girls were taken by Boko Haram militants from the town of Chibok in Borno State a year ago.
He said the army is determined to root out the Boko Haram militants who have often carried out attacks over the years, especially in Nigeria’s mostly Muslim-dominated north.
Army officials say the military operations in the Sambisa forest were hampered because the militants planted landmines in parts of the forest.
But, Usman says the army will not relent on its operation to defeat the militant group.
“The fight will continue till when we have completely rooted out the terrorists in that environment. Not just only in Sambisa Forest, [but also] wherever they are in the country,” he said.
Local media reported that the military offensives forced the Boko Haram militants to flee in smaller groups, but they attacked unarmed civilians on their way out of the areas they previously controlled.
Usman says Nigerians should be reassured that the army will ensure their protection, despite the security threat posed by the militants.
“I believe an average Nigerian is quite aware of the effort being done to make sure that the terrorists have been rooted out,” he said. “You cannot rule out the possibility of having one or two isolated cases. But beyond that I can assure you that we are doing the best we could to ensure that terrorism as it is known in the presence circumstances will be no more in the shortest possible time.”
Some Nigerians have asked about the apparent vigor with which the army has been fighting the militants when a few months ago, the extremists seemed to have the upper hand in the fight.
Usman declined to reveal the military tactics behind the army successes, but added there appears to be cooperation from residents of the areas previously controlled by the militants.
“There is improvement in the weaponry and equipment and the renewed support and cooperation and support from the Nigerian society," he said. "Fighting terrorism is a collective responsibility and of course the soldiers need all these support. Now it is available, we will make sure that we bring the war to a logical conclusion.”